Residents of Old Cedar Avenue in Bloomington are in line for some long-overdue street maintenance — more than 30 years overdue, in fact.
But they’re not happy about it.
Homeowners along the short, dead-end stretch between Old Shakopee Road and the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge are being assessed large sums to help pay for a complete rebuilding of the road. The project is expected to be carried out next year at a cost of $1.3 million, and property owners along the road have been notified that their share of the bill will be $7,000 to $40,000 apiece.
What’s really got their goat is the fact that the city hasn’t done any major maintenance on the road since the first Reagan administration. But with the restoration of the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge set to get underway this year, it’s suddenly interested in fixing a street that it has ignored for decades, residents say.
“It’s the road that Bloomington forgot,” said Barb Pederson, whose family has lived on Old Cedar Avenue since 1959. Their property includes the Bloomington Garden Center, the city’s longest continuously operating business at 96 years old. The Pedersons’ share of the road assessment is $40,000.
“They’re drawing people down there [to the rebuilt bridge] but they want me to pay,” Pederson said. “That makes me tired and angry.”
City officials are sympathetic to those concerns, but say the people along Old Cedar Avenue are being treated no differently from other city residents who are assessed for pavement projects on their streets. And there are good reasons for the way the city has handled Old Cedar Avenue, said Julie Long, a Bloomington senior civil engineer.
Until 1993, Bloomington didn’t have a regularly scheduled street maintenance program — it only redid streets if residents petitioned for it, Long said. After the city began its Pavement Management Program, the City Council decided to prioritize streets with curbs and gutters already in place — which Old Cedar Avenue doesn’t have.
Finally, Long said, the city probably would have already done a major rebuild of Old Cedar by now — except that it knew the bridge renovation was going to happen at some point, so it held off until the outcome of that was decided.
“There are times when we postpone a pavement management project because of a future project that will impact it,” Long said. Knowing that heavy equipment would be using the road during the bridge rebuild, it made more sense to redo the road after the bridge was finished.
Long said the Old Cedar residents have been constructive in their discussions about the project, and have offered helpful suggestions on designing the road to better accommodate wildlife. “These people have been very reasonable and good to work with, even though we’re not always on the same side,” she said.
Chris Heater got an assessment notice for $7,200. Heater said she’d actually prefer that the road not be rebuilt. More traffic and a new roadway will cause safety issues, she said.
“The rotten condition of the road is our safety,” she said. “We walk on it, we walk our dogs on it, we ride our bikes on it. People have to drive slowly because it’s in such bad condition. When you smooth it out, people will drive faster and something bad will happen.”
Brad Pederson, Barb’s father-in-law, said he’s glad the road is being rebuilt and it’s only fair that residents should help pay for it. But he thinks the city should offer a discount based on 30-plus years of neglect.
“Bloomington basically forgot about this road,” he said. “Now it’s in the schedule, and it’s so bad they have to totally reconstruct it. I realize I need to pay something — that’s fair. But should it be that much?”
Bloomington City Council Member Jon Oleson has met with the Old Cedar residents to hear their concerns.
“We need to listen to resident input,” Oleson said, “but at the same time, I wouldn’t flat-out say they should be getting a break. The sense of community falls apart if people get special treatment.”